A Conservative MP has been criticised by Amnesty International and the Traveller community after comments he made in an interview.
In a video interview with Core Politics, Douglas Ross was asked what he would prioritise if he were prime minister for a day.
The newly elected representative for Moray replied: “Tougher enforcement against Gypsies and Travellers”.
His answer sparked a backlash from rights groups and Travellers.
Speaking to openDemocracy, Chris Smith from the Travellers’ Times said:
“Homelessness, Brexit and Terrorism, Mr Douglas Ross could have chosen any of these issues to deal with. Instead he chose to go with ‘Tougher enforcement against Gypsies and Travellers’ the UK’s largest indigenousness ethnic group, some of whom will be his constituents.
“Blatant displays of antigypsyism by those meant to protect our rights only serves to contribute to the high levels of intolerance and racism directed towards Gypsies and Travellers in the UK today.”
Mr Smith added: “Scottish Travellers now know who not to vote for.”
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Naomi McAuliffe, Scottish programme director of rights group Amnesty International also voiced her disapproval at Mr Ross’ stance.
“Douglas Ross said his aim as an MP was to ensure ‘as good a deal as possible for the people of Moray’ – we really should not have to remind him that Scottish Gypsy Travellers living his constituency also deserve representation and respect.”
Mr Ross responded to the outcry by saying it had been a quick-fire question and his answer had been based on what he was working on at the time
He said: “Illegal and unauthorised gypsy traveller encampments are a significant problem in Moray with the settled community continually complaining that gypsy travellers receive preferential treatment whether it is with regard to planning decisions or just the way they take over a piece of land or lay by and then often leave it in a significant mess which has to be cleaned up at a cost to the local tax payer.”
In the last census (2011), 4,200 people identified themselves as ‘White: Gypsy/Traveller’.
The Scottish Government and Traveller organisations estimate the community actually comprises 15,000 to 20,000 people.